The buzz has slowly been building for Apple’s next MacBook Air. That’s because the next iteration of the ultra-lightweight laptop won’t just be a simple run-of-the-mill update. No, according to many well-placed sources and analysts, Apple is working on something big for its littlest laptop.
We’ve rounded up all the news, rumors, and leaks we can get our hands on to bring you this one-stop guide to all things MacBook Air. Want to know what to expect when Apple overhauls one of its most popular Macs? Read on to find out.
When momentum started to gather around the MacBook Air’s upcoming update, the initial projections were for a launch in late 2021. As that date rapidly approaches, however, the timeframe seems to have been pushed back, as the chances of an imminent launch appear increasingly remote.
The consensus around the MacBook Air’s release date seems to have now settled around the middle of 2022. For instance, Twitter leaker Dylandkt, who has a fairly solid track record when it comes to Apple leaks, says we can expect the new MacBook Air “in the first half of 2022.”
However, respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stated in September that the MacBook Air would enter mass production either late in the second quarter of 2022 or early in the third quarter. That suggests a timeline of roughly June to July. If that’s when the MacBook Air is entering mass production, a launch in late summer or fall might be in the cards. The M1X MacBook Pro 14 was reported to have entered mass production in August and is expected to launch in October, for example, offering up a gap of two months from start to finish.
As for the price, we are hoping Apple will either keep the same $999 price as the current MacBook Air, or even bring the price down a little. There is reason to be hopeful on that last point thanks to a report from Ming-Chi Kuo, wherein the analyst stated his expectation that we could see a price drop.
It’s unclear whether Kuo means the new MacBook Air will come in cheaper than $999, or whether the existing M1 MacBook Air will get more affordable and the new edition will occupy the $999 slot in its stead. However, reporter Mark Gurman, whose track record is excellent, believes the new MacBook Air could be positioned as a high-end alternative to the M1 model. If last year’s version, therefore, gets repositioned as an inexpensive alternative, it may be shunted off the $999 price point, which the new model will occupy.
It could be, however, that the opposite will be true, and buyers of the new MacBook Air will be hit with a price rise. The upcoming MacBook Pro, which is widely rumored to be unveiled this October, is expected to get a price rise compared to its current $1,299 cost. Might the MacBook Air follow suit?
A bold new design
One thing we are certain of, based on the breadth and depth of rumors doing the rounds, is that the MacBook Air’s iconic design is set for a big shake-up. Take Mark Gurman. The Bloomberg reporter has shared his belief that Apple is working on a “Thinner and lighter version of the MacBook Air” compared to the current iteration. He also shared that Apple was considering a 15-inch MacBook Air at one point, but the company “isn’t moving forward with this for the next generation.”
Leaker and YouTuber Jon Prosser has gone further regarding the upcoming MacBook Air’s design. He claims Apple is working on a MacBook Air with bright, fun colors like those seen in the new 24-inch iMac. Like the iMac, the MacBook Air will also have white screen bezels and keys on its keyboard, Prosser contends.
Twitter leaker Dylandkt has agreed with Prosser, tweeting in July that the upcoming MacBook Air will have “The same colors as the iMac, including the same bezel color as the iMac.”
Interestingly, Prosser’s renders, which he claims are based on actual photos of the upcoming laptop, show a device that omits the tapered frame that the MacBook Air is most famous for. Prosser says that it will instead feature a flat-edged chassis, much like the rumored design of the 14-inch MacBook Pro. That’s something Ming-Chi Kuo has also claimed, and like Prosser, the analyst also believes the MacBook Air will come in a range of colors.
Could we see a mini-LED display?
One of the most important upgrades of any laptop is the screen. When Mark Gurman stated his belief that the MacBook Air would be thinner and lighter, he elaborated a little on the ‘thinner’ aspect, explaining that the laptop’s screen bezels would be reduced in size.
However, do not expect to see something similar to what Apple did to the MacBook Pro 15, when the device’s bezels were shrunk so much the laptop could be transformed into a 16-inch MacBook Pro. No, Gurman says that despite the narrower bezels, Apple will stick to the tried-and-true 13-inch screen for the MacBook Air.
Kuo, on the other hand, seems less certain the display will be “tried-and-true” in every way. No, he believes Apple could outfit it with mini-LED technology, something we have seen already in the iPad Pro (and something that is heavily rumored to feature in the MacBook Pro coming at Apple’s October event). DigiTimes has also backed up Kuo on this count.
We consider it unlikely, though, at least for now. That’s because Apple seems to be limiting this tech to its Pro products, helping to distinguish them as high-end devices with the most forward-thinking features available. The 24-inch iMac, which is not a “pro” device, did not get a mini-LED screen, for example. Consumer products like the iMac and the MacBook Air might have to miss out for now, especially as their price points are lower than their Pro siblings and mini-LED panels are likely very expensive for Apple.
A next-generation Apple Silicon chip
What about the chip that will power the MacBook Air? Could it be the same M1X chip that is expected to make its debut in the MacBook Pro? That’s a possibility, but don’t hold your breath. Instead, the next-generation chip, the M2, seems to be a more likely possibility.
That’s because of one key reason: Timing. If Kuo’s production schedule is correct, we will probably see the new MacBook Air in late summer 2022 at the earliest. That will be almost two full years since the device’s last update, which brought the M1 chip to the MacBook Air in November 2020.
The M1X is rumored to be a souped-up sibling to the M1 rather than an entirely new generation, much like how Apple used to equip its iPad Pro models with X versions of its iPhone chips (the A12X to the iPhone’s A12, for instance). The M2, however, will be a big step up over the M1. Given the lengthy gap between the upcoming MacBook Air and its last iteration, we can’t see Apple equipping it with a half-generation chip.
The return of MagSafe
One of the most welcome changes rumored to be coming to the MacBook Air is the return of MagSafe. No, not Apple’s magnetic iPhone charging tech. The original MagSafe featured a charging cable that magnetically attached to your MacBook, meaning it would snap free if it was accidentally yanked, preventing your laptop from smashing onto the floor. It’s been absent from the MacBook Air since Apple discontinued the last MagSafe MacBook Air in 2019.
Now, Mark Gurman says it’s making a happy return. That will follow on from the MacBook Pro’s October relaunch, which is also set to include a MagSafe port.
Aside from that, Gurman believes the MacBook Air will come with two USB4 ports. Prosser simply states it will have two USB-C ports, although he hasn’t outlined whether they will be USB4.
However, what Prosser has stated is that he is uncertain whether the MacBook Air will indeed come with a MagSafe port. He explained that, based on the images he has seen of the chassis, he was not able to confirm this point either way.
Everything else we expect to see
Prosser has claimed the new MacBook Air’s keyboard will feature full-sized function keys, as opposed to the squat versions on the current model. That will push the rest of the keyboard down, which in turn means the trackpad will be slightly smaller. That’s a shame, as one of the strengths of Apple’s laptop trackpads is their large size, which makes them perfect for the many great MacOS gestures.
We are hoping the MacBook Air will feature an upgraded 1080p webcam, which would be an increase on its current miserly 720p version. There are reasons to be optimistic here, as the iMac got this exact upgrade in April. The MacBook Pro launch will show us whether Apple plans on extending this camera tech beyond its desktop Macs.
One feature that would be tightly linked to the webcam setup is Face ID. We’ve been wanting it to make the jump from iPhones to Macs for ages now, and we know Apple is working on doing just that, but it seems we are going to have to wait a little longer. Back in January 2021, Mark Gurman said both Face ID and cellular connectivity would be absent from the next MacBook Air, as they simply aren’t ready yet.